With all four main parties now having published their manifestos, people can compare and contrast. Well, compare, anyway; contrasting is a lot more difficult with so much overlap between the four parties on just about everything. Much of the content could simply be swapped from one manifesto to any one of the others.
In his column in the Western Mail on Saturday, Matt Withers came to a similar conclusion. I entirely agree with his comment that “essentially these four documents are all about make (sic) a case for being the most competent managers.” We are not really being asked to decide between alternative routes forward for Wales; just between four leaders who want to take us to pretty much the same place, but all claiming that they can drive better than the others.
I don’t doubt that all four parties would try to argue that the statement is not true, and each would say that they (and they alone) have got some really big and original ideas in their manifestos – but that’s more about rhetoric and spin than about substance.
I also agree with his comment on the language in which the manifestos are couched. Far too many of what look like promises are actually preceded by words such as seek, try, work towards, consider, examine, investigate, review, strive, develop, encourage… None of these can be taken as firm promises, but discounting every ‘promise’ which starts with such weasel words would leave some very thin documents.
I cannot, though, agree with his conclusion that “the days of ideological warfare are over”. The fact that the four main parties have chosen to converge in the same ideological territory doesn’t mean that there is no alternative which can be put. It just means that we shouldn’t expect to see that alternative actually being put by the leaders of any of these parties.